The trade deadline is now behind us and, for the most part, the players major league teams have on their rosters today are the ones they're stuck with down the stretch. However, for fantasy managers, your league's rules likely leave you a little more leeway to make a few more moves over the final third of the season.
To that end, we'll take one last look at our very exclusive club of starting pitchers. Yes, the "Rule of 7" roll call is once again ready to be read. As always, this is a simple shortcut you can use to determine who qualifies to be among the pitching "elite" in the points-league format. To remind you, the requirement to join the club is an ERA of 3.50 or less and a K/BB rate of 3.50 or more for the season. At any given time, the number of starting pitchers who qualify for my "Rule of 7" tends to settle in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 names.
Through Sunday's action, there were only 13 healthy pitchers who qualified (with a minimum of eight starts), including the following "obvious" names, who are all rostered in at least 90% of ESPN leagues: Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Shane Bieber, Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Jacob deGrom, Jose Berrios, Walker Buehler, Kyle Hendricks, Chris Paddack, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Clevinger.
There's no question, should anyone offer you one of these arms, you take the deal as quickly as you can, because the number of pitchers operating at this level is clearly limited.
A few more pitchers who have pitched at a level strong enough for inclusion in our club, but are currently out of commission and sitting in IL limbo, are Hyun-Jin Ryu and Max Scherzer (both of whom are expected back in the not-too-distant future), as well as residents of the 60-day IL, Luke Weaver, Rich Hill and Tyler Glasnow. Frankie Montas, currently serving out an 80-game suspension, cannot come back prior to the last week of September.
Caleb Smith was a member of the "Rule of 7" when we last checked the roster, and even though he has sustained his high level of performance, his rostered percentage has actually gone down, from 82.2% to 70.3% since June 3. Points-leaguers looking for a little help down the stretch can certainly buy in here.
Another two names who may be worth consideration are Devin Smeltzer (1.6%) and Alex Wood (26.3%), both of whom would qualify for membership if they had more than a handful of starts. Still, the small sample size bodes well for their future potential. Besides, given the dearth of truly "elite" pitching with the use of the 2019 baseballs, it makes total sense to take chances on those hurlers with even limited stretches of "7-worthy" stats.